With Spring Break just around the corner, many families have begun planning their pilgrimage to potential colleges. Of course, there's such a wealth of information available out there, that it can be tempting to skip the tours altogether and rely on what's available online. But we encourage all our families to do at least one college trip during their decision-making journey. Here’s why:
1. Trying it on. Guidebooks and websites can't compare to the feeling a student gets when they walk through a campus. It helps the college feel real and can give them a better sense of whether or not it's "the one." Four years is a big commitment, and that in-person feeling is key in determining if it's a good fit.
2. Too big? Too small? Just right? Preferences on college size tend to follow fads. Right now, we're in the era of the big state colleges. We often hear from students, "I want to go to a college bigger than my high school.” But it's not wise to judge a school based on a number. When students visit a smaller college, they often realize that these institutions are vastly different from their high schools—even if they are the same size. It's critical for students to see a variety of sizes of colleges and universities so they don't pigeonhole themselves based on a preconception.
3. Revealing priorities. Talking to students after a college visit provides a wealth of information. You can hear the student’s excitement when they share their highlights—whether it's about the food, the professors, or even the quality of the gym. This will give you (and them!) insight into their priorities in the college search process and help them better evaluate each school accordingly.